How Does Sport Climbing Work (And What Equipment Do I Need)?

In sport climbing, the first climber and a belayer tie themselves in one end of a single rope. As the first climber moves up, he or she clips the carabiners to the previously attached bolts while the belayer supplies slack in the rope. For this activity, you would need ropes, slings, a belay device, carabiners, quickdraws, your helmet, harness, and climbing shoes.
How Does Sport Climbing Work

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Sport climbing is slowly gaining popularity especially to the daredevils of the world. The adrenaline rush on both the climb up and the rappel down can be addicting. If you are a beginner, remember to learn the basics first before attempting any crazy stunt.

Is Sport Climbing the Same as Free Climbing?

Sport climbing is actually a form of free climbing.

Free climbing is any style of climbing which does not use gear to aid a climber’s progress. Other forms of free climbing include top roping and trad climbing.

Is Sport Climbing the Same as Lead Climbing?

Sport climbing is one form of lead climbing.

This means that the first climber moves up a sport route without the protection of rope that has already been set up. Another form of lead climbing is trad climbing .

How Dangerous is Sport Climbing?

There’s no denying it—sport climbing can be deathly dangerous. Hauling yourself up and rappelling down, which essentially is sport climbing, carry another level of danger.

The risks that you will face while sport climbing can never be totally controlled but that’s not to say that it will always be dangerous or that a climb will always result in accidents.

There are preventive measures that you can take to make sure that your climb will both be safe and successful.

Your life is literally hanging by a thread and you alone can assess your position. Remember that it is better to stay on the ground if the climb seems too difficult or too dangerous. Also remember to never climb without a friend.

Where Did Sport Climbing Start?

The first climbing enthusiasts used to be purely free climbers and up until the 70s, they thought that hanging from a rope is sort of cheating on the sport. But they started experimenting using ropes, also known as hand-dogging, to attempt difficult moves while climbing or to master a route.

They then started practicing rappelling down cliffs to explore and to put bolts on the routes down so they can climb it back up. It was in the early 80s when Oregon-born climber Alan Watts, started climbing using the “top-down” techniques.

This basically gave birth to what we now know as sport climbing which uses both hand-dogging and climbing on routes with bolts already set-up.

What Are The 3 Disciplines in Olympic Sport Climbing?

The three disciplines of sport climbing that will be featured in the Olympics are speed climbing, lead climbing, and bouldering.

A bit of background: In 2015, the International Federation of Sport Climbing or IFSC proposed that sport climbing be included in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee or IOC formally announced its inclusion in 2016 and sport climbing was supposed to debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

How Is Sport Climbing Scored?

The sport climbing athletes will all compete in these three disciplines and the climber with the lowest overall score will win the gold medal.

For speed climbing, athletes will climb a 15-meter wall and the first climber to press the buzzer at the top of the wall will advance on the next part.

In bouldering, athletes have to climb the fixed routes on a 4.5-meter wall. The routes have varying difficulty and they have to be completed within four minutes. Climbers have to grab the final hold at the top of the route with both hands to advance to the next discipline.

In lead climbing, athletes have to climb as high as they can on a 15-meter high wall within six minutes. The climbers must attach their rope to the top quickdraw to complete the climb.

The placement of the athletes in the three disciplines will be multiplied and the athlete with the lowest overall score will be the recipient of the gold medal.

What Equipment Do You Need for Sport Climbing?

Here’s a quick run-down of the essentials that you need to bring on your sport climbing adventure.

For your climbing gear, be sure to bring the following:

  • Ropes and a rope bag
  • Belay or rappelling device
  • Slings or Runners (singles and doubles)
  • Quickdraws
  • Carabiners (both locking and non-locking)

For your personal needs during the climb, be sure to bring:

  • Climbing Helmet
  • Climbing Harness
  • Climbing shoes

It is optional to bring your own chalk and chalk bag. If you sweat quite a bit while climbing, then it will be wise to bring it along.

How Many Quickdraws Do I Need for Sport Climbing?

12 quickdraws is a good amount for a sport route. However, there’s really no specific number of quickdraws you need to bring as the number greatly depends on the location and how long the climb is.

Sports routes which are 30 meters long would require 16 to 18 quickdraws, while sport routes even longer than that would require you to bring upwards of 24.

You may want to keep these in mind:

  • If a route requires you to bring rope that is 70 meters or more, be sure to bring more than 12 quickdraws.
  • You should bring extra quickdraws if you’re planning to build an anchor.
  • Read the guidebook and note the number of bolts on the route as this would dictate how many quickdraws to bring.
  • There is no harm in bringing extra quickdraws in case of unforeseen circumstances.

How Many Carabiners Do I Need for Sport Climbing?

For sport climbing, you will only need to bring 2 locking carabiners. You don’t need more because the bolts have already been put in place.

It is also unlikely that you will need more to put up an anchor. You will only use the carabiners for belaying or bailing off a route.

How Many Slings Do I Need for Sport Climbing?

For most sport routes, you may want to bring at least six 24-inch slings. If you’re going to climb routes with complex terrain, it’s best to bring twelve or more single-length slings.

You may also want to bring two or three double-length slings that measure 48 inches. If there is a possibility of you bailing off a route, you better bring more.

How Do You Rappel from a Sport Climbing Route?

Although lowering from an anchor is quicker than rappelling, most climbers still opt for the latter. This is because rappelling puts less wear on the rings and the rope when you’re climbing down.

Here are some steps that you need to take when rappelling down a sport route:

  • Make sure that you attach your belay device correctly.
  • Back-up your belay set-up with a safely tied up prusik.
  • Before you unclip your attachment to the anchor, make sure that your ropes are threaded through the main point of the anchor and the belay device.
  • Make sure that your anchors are solid and that your prusik knot will hold.
  • Once you’ve checked all of these, you may now unclip your sling from the anchor.
  • Belay yourself down slowly and safely while you slide the prusik as you go.
  • Keep your body in an L-shape position and your feet apart.
  • Walk backward slowly and do not bounce, swing around, or jump.
  • Once you’re safely on the ground, remove your rappelling device and pull down the other end of the rope.